From Maryland to Illinois; Deciphering a Workman family story

My goal this year is to focus more on my own family history here so this is a start! This article is about my more recent ancestors but I feel it’s a good place to start our journey back through part of my family history. I have written about one of the people in this family before but at the time, I really didn’t have a great deal of information on her life. The previous article about Mary Jane “Polly” Owen was more about my personal thoughts on her life and her Owen family background. In a way, this post is an update to her story.

You can read that earlier story about her in this post:

Mary Polly Owen

Isaac Workman and Mary Jane “Polly” Owen are buried in Yolton Cemetery, Avena Illinois. A search of burials at Yolton Cemetery lists many other family names related to this research project. No burial information has been located for Amos Workman or his second wife Jane Conner/Matheny Workman. This research has verified that Mary Owen Workman lived until about 1895 and died while living with one of her children.


Location of Yolton Cemetery on map


Yolton Cemetery Photo credit to Gary Feezel on Find a Grave site

Today we are going to learn more about Mary Jane “Polly” Workman and the extended Workman family as they made the move to Illinois in 1838. This article details my recent research on  Amos Workman and his extended family group. The research is an attempt to  verify information contained in Fayette County Historical County Biographic sketch of Workman family in Fayette county, Illinois. For purposes of this specific research, I have used a land grant map that shows Isaac Workman’s original land purchases in 1838/39. The land grant map was found in a book, Family Maps of Fayette County, Illinois by Gregory A. Boyd J.D. Information on that book can be found here:


This is the area that the biography pertains to when it mentions the family group’s arrival in Illinois so I have kept the land grant research to this one area for this project. I have also used a number of family histories and information from various family members and trees on Ancestry as well as my best friend, “Google”!  


A number of years ago when I first started researching my Workman family ancestry, I received a biography from the Fayette County, Illinois Historical Society. For many years, this was all I had to go on as far as information for my ancestor, Amos Workman. Amos was my “Brick Wall” in genealogy terms. In many aspects, he still is my brick wall as there is still little information to be found on his history or the family history of his two wives. Because trying to tear down that brick wall was so frustrating, I set the Workman research aside for a number of years. Last year, I decided to make one more attempt at the Workman Wall. I purchased a dna test through Ancestry in the hopes that it would help break through that wall. In my mind, it was kind of my one last attempt. My thought was that if I didn’t get dna results to confirm any relationships, I would be finished with that branch and would resign myself to the fact that he was the end line for that branch. Thanks to Ancestry, that one last attempt was successful on most parts. The dna testing provided enough dna links and connections to place my ancestor Amos within the larger Workman family.  Amos and his descendants have often been overlooked and left out of the many Workman histories that people refer to. The most they generally say about Amos  is a short reference such as Amos was a son of William Workman and Phoebe Critchfield, he married a Rebecca. My dna test confirmed a connection to William and Phoebe and thus my connection back to the Workman and Critchfield families. What it did not do, however, was provide me with much more information than I already knew about Amos, his wives and his son Isaac who is my direct ancestor linking me back to Amos. I was still left with a brick wall, but now it at least had a crack in it so I was and am still optismistic about eventually tearing down that wall completely and discovering the mystery of Amos Workman. While the dna test can unlock some of the mysteries and provide some verification of family lines, it can not answer all of the questions or mysteries. The only way to truly answer those questions is through research, vast amounts of research! I have spent much of the past year doing that research on Amos and the entire Workman family. What I quickly realized was that in order to piece together Amos’ life, I had to look at the overall Workman history because there would be clues to Amos within all of those other family histories. This article provides an excellent explanation on why you need to look at the entire extended family group rather than just your individual direct line ancestry.


I learned early on that in order to find answers, you have to look beyond just your direct family ancestry. This research of the entire family led me to an interest in extended family groups and their migration from the early colonies westward.  Amos Workman and his family were a part of that migration pattern. Their earliest beginnings were in New Amsterdam Colony, they then moved as a group to New Jersey and from there they went on To Maryland. Maryland is where Amos’ story began within that large extended family group. Even though we know very little about him, we can trace his migration with the families from Maryland to parts of Virginia, on to Ohio and Pennsylvania and eventually on to Illinois where the family finally settled in about 1838. As we learn more about the other family members and groups, a better picture of the mystery “brick wall” person such as Amos will begin to emerge. I will discuss more about Amos in a separate article, for now I just want to share the information that pertains mainly to the extended family group’s move from Ohio to Illinois. 


My research of the early Workman families in Maryland inspired me to go back and take another look at the Fayette County biography where they mentioned the connections back to Maryland.  The research of  early Workmans in Maryland did not show direct family connections to those families mentioned in the biography so I began to wonder what the connection might be? I also wondered if the information in the biography could be verified somehow? While working with another distant family member who grew up in Maryland and was a descendant of Workman branches who remained in Maryland, she verified the connection to Logues and McKenzies not as connected family groups but as living near each other in Alleghany county Maryland. She stated that the Logues, McKenzies, Arnolds and Logsdons were Catholics and would have been living in the Arnold Settlement while the Workman, Wykcoff and other families lived on lands that were adjacent to the Arnold settlement. With this information, I began a more thorough research of the Fayette County biography to see what other infomation or clues it might provide. I started researching more of the descendants of Amos in the hopes that some of them might have answers or at least be asking the same questions as I was.


page 1 of letter written by Daisy Maude Workman Lichtenwalter Locke. Credit and much appreciation to ancestry member mindweaver for sharing!


Page 2 of letter written by Daisy Maude Workman Lichtenwalter Locke. Credit and much appreciation to Ancestry member for sharing!

In retrospect, Yes, I probably should have went this route from the beginning because some of them did have important information that would shed light on the lives of Amos and Isaac. One family member was able to provide a letter written by one of her ancestors that describes the move from Ohio to Illinois and verifies much of the information contained in the biography regarding Isaac’s horse running away and how he came to purchase the land. Much thanks and credit to ancestry member mindweaver for sharing a letter written by Daisy Maude Workman Lichtenwalter Locke, descendant of Isaac Workman and Mary Jane Owen through son Martin VanBuren Workman. This letter provides a great deal of information and insight on Isaac’s wife Mary Jane Owen as well as information on the trip and the initial land purchase. As a result, it verifies much of the information in the biography and adds an important layer to the overall history of the Workman family. The letter adds to the history of another Workman branch, one that was seemingly unconnected to Amos and Isaac but for information provided in this letter. Daisy’s letter refers to the fact that Isaac Workman had interaction with John Doyle Lee in purchasing land from John Doyle Lee before John became connected to a distant relative of Isaac’s, John Workman. For more information on John Doyle Lee and John Workman family, please see separate article. This link is to the story I posted on Ancestry, but I will soon be posting that story here as well. I will provide that link when it gets posted here.

Letter of importance: Workman connections to John Doyle Lee

After receiving the copy of Daisy’s letter, I became even more interested in information that the biography might provide indirectly. One of the other pieces of information in the biography was the contributors to the story. I looked into those contributors to see how they may have been connected to the families in the biography and this is what I found.

contributors to Fayette County historical society biography:

Arthur Buchanan- most likely a family member of Mary Ann McConkey daughter of George Washington McConkey, granddaughter of Mary Jane Owen. Mary Ann McConkey married an Albert Buchanan. Other Buchanan connections go back to John Jacob Dively and Margaret Earnest. I was unable to confirm which Arthur Buchanan was involved in contributing to the biography because there was more than one Arthur Buchanan who could have provided the informatin but which ever Arthur it was, he most likely would have had family information going back to the earliest years in Illinois and been connected to the Owen families as well as Dively and Earnest families who are connected to Workman family.

Mrs. Katie Owen Whitefort: daughter of John Wilson Owen and Tolitha June Jackson. Granddaughter of George Hartzell Owen and Lucinda Ralston Owen. Great granddaughter of James Owen and Nancy Brashears. James was a brother of Mary Jane Owen who married Isaac Workman. Katie’s Grandmother Lucinda Ralston was daughter of Mary Ann Kyser and Joseph Ralston. Mary Ann Kyser’s Mother was Margaret Workman, sister of Amos Workman. This would make Katie Owen Whitefort a descendant of both Owens families and earlier Workman families. According to source information, she was a school teacher, did not marry until later in life and had no children. Because of her unique link to the families, she may have had a great deal of family history information regarding both families and those early years. Katie had two brothers, and as far as I can tell there was only one descendant of that family branch.

Mrs. Joe Rhodes: Theda Mildred Ellison Rhodes-husband William Joseph Rhodes. Theda Ellison 1899-1990, daughter of Ina Della Workman and Edward Franklin Ellison. Ina Della Workman was daughter of Isaac Wesley Workman, granddaughter of Amos Workman jr, great granddaughter of Isaac Workman and Mary Jane Owen. Her husband William Joseph Rhodes’ family would have had ties back that went back to McKenzie families that were listed in the biography as families in Maryland.

Mrs. Raymond McElheney- Mrs. Raymond McElheney is Phyllis E Springman, daughter of Frank Springman and Maude Workman. Maude Workman was daughter of Isham Douglas Workman and Rosabelle Hedges. Isham was son of Ireal Owen Workman and Lucillia Jennings. Isreal was son of Amos Workman and Jane Connor Matheny.

Once I connected the contributors to their family connections, I decided to address another piece of information from the biography. The biography stated that there was a group of 16 families traveling together from Ohio on their way to Texas in 1838. Daisy’s letter did not mention the number of people in the group but did dispute the mention of Texas. Her letter mentioned that they were on their way to Missouri.

The contributors were unsure of how many of the families stayed in Illinois and how many continued on to Texas. So far I have found no evidence to corroborate the mention of them being on their way to Texas, and I have yet to find any of the extended family group that might have went on to Texas. Daisy Workman Lichtenwalter’s letter states that the group was on their way to Missouri, and a number of the family members did eventually move on to Missouri. Daisy also mentions in her letter that none of the party traveled any further so that would suggest that all 16 families settled in Illinois initially. A search of the early land grants in Fayette county along with a search of families who settled in the nearby area should give us a good indication or approximation of which families were part of this wagon train in 1838. In order to come up with a possible list of families, I used family connections along with a land grant map showing Isaac Workman’s original land grants of 1838/1839.


Fayette county Illinois family group land map. Credit to Family Maps of Fayette County, Illinois by Gregory A Boyd


map of area that Amos and Isaac settled in showing locations of nearby townships, cemeteries as well as streams and creeks. Credit to Family Maps Fayette County, Illinois by Gregory A Boyd

I limited my focus to that one area because that is the area mentioned in the biography where the group camped while Isaac searched for the missing horse, then decided to stay. The land map shows the connected families that settled in that area. I looked at the families in that area, their possible  family connections and dates of land grants shown on the map. I also looked at individual families and their migration from Ohio to Illinois to verify that their move would coincide closely with the time frame of this trip around 1838. For many of the families, I had to use births of their children to see approximately when they would have made the move to Illinois. I also took into consideration that some of the birth places and or dates may have been incorrect or approximated by individual tree members as many of them had no actual documents to base the date or place on. The list is an approximation or general idea of who the families in that group of 16 families might have been. In most cases, they share a family link or connection which I have provided. In a few cases, such as the Earnest families, there is not a known family connection prior to Illinois but rather a link that connects them back to Ohio or Pennsylvania. At some point in the future there may be a proven family connection going further back but I have not found it yet.

I have attempted to break the families down into individual family groups that reflect how they may have been traveling to account for the number of families in the group. I have also used the land grant map to place them in the area after the trip when ever possible.

1. Amos Workman with wife Jane and at least 7 children- Isaac, Amos’ oldest son would be a separate family. There is no additional information on Joseph born about 1818, so it is possible that he did not make the move. Amos is shown as owning land on the land grant map. His purchase date was 1839

2. Isaac Workman with wife Mary Jane Owen and all 10 of their children. His 1838/39 land purchases  are shown on the land grant map.

3. James Owen and wife Nancy Brashears-brother to Mary Jane Owen, his daughter Mary Owen is listed as being born in Fayette county in 1838. There are a number of land purchase shown for James Owen with earliest one in this area being 1841. He may have purchased land in another section earlier than that.

4. Nathan Clinton Owen brother of Mary Jane and James. Nathan is listed as marrying second wife Mary Ann Griffith 1839 in Fayette county. There is a William Griffith with a land grant in the area- his land purchase is shown as 1839 so possibly he was a relative of Mary Ann’s and was a part of the original party but we can not be certain. Nathan is not shown as purchasing land in this specific area at that time but he may have been living with James during that time as he was a widower with small children prior to his marriage to Mary Ann Griffith. His first wife was Catherine Brashears, sister to Nancy Brashears who was married to his brother James. She died in 1835 so he would have made this trip on his own with three very young children.

One added note for Owen family members: George Washington McConkey, Mary Jane Owen’s half brother moved to Fayette county, but it looks like he may have made the move a few year later around 1843. He may have waited until other family members were settled well to make the move himself.
Earnest family-Samuel Ernest is shown as having a land grant in the same area, purchased 1839. The Earnest family is connected in two ways. The first is that Harriet Earnest, a relative of Samuel’s later married Isaac Workman’s son William. The second way is less obvious and requires looking further back into the families for it to make sense why the Earnest families may have been connected earlier than their meeting in Fayette county. This connection will also bring with it another family that may have been part of the original group. One of the other early families shown on the map and shown to have a continued connection to Workman and Owen families was John Jacob Dively. John Jacob Dively was married to a Margaret Earnest. Margaret Earnest was born abt 1795 in Somerset county, Pennsylvania in the same area that the other Earnest families in Fayette county list as being at. I have no definitive or absolute proof to connect her to them, but I believe she was most likely a sister to William Earnest and possibly David Earnest. They were probably all related and all made the move together. John Jacob Dively’s original property was in the same area as Samuel Earnest who was most likely another brother of Margaret. These families may have had connections to Owen families back to Pennsylvania. In order to better understand these connections and for them to begin making more sense, you need to look at the family histories and you need to look at them in a broader context than just one family’s direct line ancestry. The Earnest and Dively families go back to Pennsylvania where Mary Jane Owen and her brothers were from before moving to Ohio. Mary Jane Owen’s family history would provide some clues to these connections. Her Father’s family were Welsh Quakers and her Mother was most probably probably Pennsylvania “Dutch” which was translated from Deitsch or German. The Earnests and Divelys were most likely part of the Pennsylvania Deitsch groups. An Earnest family history mentions this association and in a Workman biography, Charles Workman also mentions the Pennsylvania and “Dutch” connection. 

5&6 The Earnest families would have made up at least two family groups depending on how they chose to travel. We know of William, David and Samuel but it’s not clear of the exact family connection. William and David were most likely brothers and from all indications, David may not have remained in Illinois. Samuel was either a brother to them or was possibly a son of David. There are no land patents for either William or David but there are for Samuel. At the time of the move, Samuel was unmarried so was most likely traveling with either William or David. Margaret would have been in a separate family group traveling with husband John Jacob Dively.

7. Dively family would have been John Jacob with wife Margaret and 6 children. They would have all traveled together as one household or family as none of their children were married at the time of this move. It should also be noted here that there is a census record for 1830 showing Jacob Dively and family in Knox county Ohio. From looking at Dively family history, it looks like John Jacob was the only one of his family to make the move on to Illinois. Prior to being in Ohio, they were in Somerset county, Pennsylvania where they were married at.

Most of the above mentioned families, except for the Earnest family, would have had a direct family connection to each other so it makes sense they would have traveled together as a group. They would have made up at least 7 or 8 of the families. The rest of the group was most likely made up those families listed in the biography. I have researched those families and traced them back to the early connections they would have had with Amos Workman’s family. The Logues and Mckenzies both go back to Maryland and follow the same migration pattern as Amos and son Isaac. Both of these large extended families were in the same areas of Ohio as Amos Workman families prior to the move to Illinois. I have not yet found intermarriages between Workmans and Logues or McKenzies prior to Illinois but I have not done an in depth search of all of those families either so there could be family connections that I have not yet run across. The Logsdon connection to Workman families is not very prevalent so I do not think those families would have been in this wagon train. There is another family not mentioned in the biography that does have strong connections back to Maryland and could eventually provide clues to Amos’ second wife who is listed as Jane Conner/Connor and or Matheny in various sources and records. This would be the Sapp family.

The Sapp family goes back to Maryland, and besides having a connection to Matheny families, they have a connection to the Critchfield and Workman families. Amos Workman’s Mother was Phoebe Critchfield and his aunt was Hester Critchfield. If you follow the Sapp family line all the way back to Maryland, you will find a George Sapp born 1743 died 1810 in Knox county Ohio. He married Christina Texter in 1765. Their daughter Catherine “Peggy” Sapp married a Joseph Critchfield who was a relative of Phoebe and Hester Critchfield. The Sapp family had a close connection to Critchfields in that another daughter, Margaret married William Critchfield a brother of Joseph Critchield.  An added connection to the Workmans at that time-their son Daniel Sapp married a Mary Robeson. Mary Robeson had a brother Solomon who married a Rebecca Workman, while her sister Elizabeth married David Workman who was a son of Stephen Workman and Hester Critchfield. Their son Joseph M. Sapp married an Elizabeth Starner. All of the children of Joseph and Elizabeth eventually made the move to Illinois. One son, William Sapp’s history gives an explanation that would coincide somewhat with our biography. It lists a time period of 1839 and says, “With several hundred relatives and friends including his brothers and sisters by forming a wagon train they left Knox County Ohio and moved to Illinois. William and Catherine had one small daughter and were pregnant with their second child.”  William’s information states 1839, but there were land agreements dated 1838 so that would suggest that the families arrived in 1838. They probably arrived and began settling in 1838 with initial land purchases by family groups.


painting credit to Fayette county migration project

I believe that the 16 families mentioned in the biography were part of a much larger group as William Sapp’s information suggests. The 16 families referenced in the biography could be referring to those who camped with Isaac Workman and settled in the area where he ended up purchasing land. The Logue, McKenzies and Logsdons may have been part of the larger group that William Sapp referred to. A look at the land map will show that two Sapp brothers settled near Isaac and Amos Workman. Their land grants had purchase dates of 1839, the same as Amos Workman’s. This does not mean they were not on the land before that, it simply means that was the year the actual legal purchase agreement was made. They may have been renting the land previously, or the land in question was open and unclaimed when they settled there but they did not finalize purchase agreements until 1839. These two Sapp brothers and the location of their lands near Amos and Isaac provide a clue to the mysterious Matheny connection. As I mentioned previously, Amos Workman’s second wife was Jane Conner/Connor or Matheny. Some records and sources list Conner while others mention Matheny so she could have been a Jane Conner married to a Matheny prior to marriage Amos, or she could have been a Jane Matheny married to a Conner? Either way, she seems to have had some connection to Connor and Matheny families. Daniel Sapp, one of the sons of Joseph Sapp and Elizabeth Starner married a Sarah Margaret Matheny (no other information known about her other than birth date of 1808). Charles Sapp, another son of Joseph and Elizabeth, married a Mary Elizabeth Matheny born 1812 in Knox county, Father’s name possibly Benjamin. Given the fact that Amos’ wife Jane is often linked to Matheny families, I believe that these two Sapp families may have had some family connection to Amos through the earlier Critchfield connections and to Jane through some connection to Matheny families. For this reason, I believe that Charles and Daniel Sapp families may have been in this group of families.

8. Charles Sapp with wife Mary Elizabeth and 4 children

9. Daniel Sapp with wife Sarah and 5 children

This would account for at least 9 or 10 of the supposed 16 familes in the wagon train that all had some link to each other through either Workman, Owen or Earnest family connections. The remaining group members may well have been Logues, Mckenzies or others who made trip with this group and camped with them but did not settle in the same close location as these above listed families did.

The National Road and it’s connection to the family migration from Maryland to Illinois.



The last item I want to address here is not mentioned in the family biography but Daisy Lichtenwalter does mention it in her letter. Daisy mentions the Old National Trail or Road in her letter so I just want to touch on the National Road as it pertains to family migration from Maryland on to Illinois. The construction of the National Road and it’s route directly corresponds to the extended family’s migration out of Maryland. You can look at the family histories and see that their moves across the colonies, territories and states closely followed the years of construction of the Old National Road.

In 1802, President Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, proposed a plan that sparked interest, known as the “Origin of the National Road”. The plan allocated money from land sales, allowing a percentage to be used for the making of the first federally funded highway. The road began in Maryland near Frostburg in Alleghany county, where our extended Workman families were  in the mid 1700s. During the later 1700s many of them were migrating back and forth between Monongalia county in Virginia, Alleghany county Maryland and Belmont county Ohio. The construction of the National Road made their migration between the areas easier. As the road progressed, so did their journey westward. The road would eventually connect Alleghany county and areas of Monongalia county to Belmont county Ohio where the earliest record for Amos Workman is documented other than his birth in Frostburg, Maryland. In the late 1700s around 1790s, he supposedly had land in Monongalia county and when he sold the land, he listed his home of record as Belmont county. Belmont county was on the border of Ohio and West Virginia. By about 1815-1820, most of the families had followed the road as it was making it’s way through Ohio. The majority of families were settled together in Knox county and adjacent areas, and remained there throughout the 1820s until the mid 1830s. The road building was an extremely slow process and it took almost ten years for the road to make it’s way through areas of Ohio.


The National Road was also known as the Cumberland Road and this shows the early route in Ohio through Indiana and on to Illinois.


Knox county Ohio in relation to other counties and to Columbus. The National Road was designed to run through capitols of each state so this shows that living in Knox county, the families would have been close to the National Road. It also shows location of Fairfield where Isaac Workman married Mary Jane Owen.

The first section of the National Road was approved in 1806 by an act of congress and signed by President Thomas Jefferson, officially establishing a national highway from Cumberland, Maryland to the Mississippi. There was one catch, the road would run through the capitals of each state along the route. According to congressional requirements the road was to be sixty-six feet wide and be surfaced with stone and covered with gravel, along with bridges that were to be made of stone. Mandates were placed by legislators for the protection of citizens that prohibited a tree stump on the National Road to exceed 15 inches in height. Surveyors were sent to calculate and measure westward trails. The road would eventually pass through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois.

Even though, contracts were not granted until 1811, road construction did not begin until 1815 in Cumberland, Maryland and reached Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1818, being delayed because of the war of 1812. From Wheeling, Ohio was only a bridge length away. Many families preferred to migrate by Ohio River boats than by slow wagon journey westward through the wilderness of deep ruts and low lying stumps. The terrain varied from state to state as well as the quality of bridges and roads.

Original specifications for the road were used before the utilization of Macadamization. This rather expensive and sophisticated engineering technique used layers of stone to build the road. To make the road, the ground would have to be dug 12-18 inches deep and stones approximately 7 inches in diameter were used for the base. Then smaller stones that passed through a three-inch ring and graded down. Macadamization was the ideal surface for the time, but due to the expense it was not available everywhere. Plank roads, literally building of a floor of timber as a roadway, was used and look upon as a perfect answer to providing smooth, dust-free roads in muddy rural areas. Over time, deteriation was common among these timber highways and plank roads were not used everywhere.

By 1820, money was appropriated to survey the remainder of the states: Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Road building was a huge task. And a variety of skills were needed. Surveyors laid out paths; engineers oversaw construction. Masons cut and worked the stone, and carpenters framed bridges. Numerous laborers pulled and tugged, cut and hauled and leveled to clear the path. By 1822, President James Monroe vetoed a proposed legislation to turn the National Road into a federal toll road. Ownership of the road was handed to the states through which the road passed. The states built tollhouses along the road to collect tolls to help fund repairs needed for the road.

Those traveling west of the Alleghenies on the National Road considered Ohio the Frontier and Indiana and Illinois the West. In the early 1800s, thousands of movers and tons of merchandise moved across the National Road, despite its haphazard quality. They came from the Shenandoah Valley and down from rocky New England, pausing to rest briefly at Cumberland, then driving on toward Uniontown and Wheeling. Arriving Eastern goods could either be sent upriver from Wheeling to Pittsburgh or downstream to ports in Ohio, Indiana and on to Louisiana. Agricultural produce and materials from the South and West came upriver to be unloaded at Wheeling, then to be carried eastward to cities as far away as Baltimore.
A horde of emigrants hurried westward during the golden decades prior to the Civil War. Author P. D. Jordan described it this way, “Their covered wagons had been forming an endless procession ever since the Cumberland Road was opened. After they settled Pennsylvania, they filled Ohio. When Ohio land no longer was available, they clumped on into Indiana to erect their homes and plant their fields on the banks of the Wabash. They clung to the National Road like a mosquito to a denizen of the swampy American Bottoms. It was the people’s highway, and the people crowded it from rim to edge until their carts, wagons, stages and carriages challenged one another for the right of way. (Philip D. Jordan, The National Road, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1948.)

It took almost another 10 years for the road to reach it’s end at Vandalia Illinois. In 1828, a surveyor named Joseph Shriver surveyed the eighty-nine mile route from Indiana to Vandalia, IL. Many hardships endured during his survey in July of that year. He recorded a few of these in his survey notes:

“Saturday, July 19th, 1828
Run 10-3/4 miles today- 8 or 9 miles of it Prairie-the dividing ground between the Little Walbash and Kaskaskia.
Encamped on the waters of the Kaskaskia. Lost an ox from the team today, -his death occasioned by the heat and the want of water in xing the prairie.

Sunday, July 20th, 1828
Run 7 miles today over ground not very good for a road. About one half Prairie land, the remainder broken. Encamped on a small spring branch, waters of the stream which puts into the Kaskaskia River opposite Vandalia.

Monday July 21 st, 1828
Run within a mile or less of Vandalia when a heavy rain come on and being in an extensive bottom could not proceed
further—encamped. Provisions scarce: breakfast on meat and coffee: –dined on honey and meat and supped on roasted flitch and coffee. Notwithstanding it being so near to Vandalia there is yet not the least sign of anything like a settlement, much less the seat of a Government of a State. Strange case to be within hearing distance of a city and starving.”

It was not long after Shriver’s Surveys, Congress appropriated $40,000 in 1830 to open the Illinois section of the road. Later, additional money was granted each year for the much needed work of clearing land, grading and the bridge building work. New towns began to spring up over night along the route. Many businesses began to set up shop along the road to accommodate the needs of the workers of the National Road. Huge Conestoga Wagons came in droves, traveling the dusty road westward.

In 1838 the road had finally reached its end to Vandalia, Illinois, the current state capital at that time. During the summer of 1839 the National Road was open for travel in Illinois. Although the road was surveyed to Jefferson City, Missouri, construction was halted at Vandalia, Illinois. Due to lack of funding by the government and squabbling over the route for which the road would take. Missouri wanted the road to travel through St. Louis, MO and Illinois wanting it to travel through Alton, Illinois, a town located along the Mississippi River. After a total of 600 miles and approximately $7,000,000 the road to the wilderness was completed.

Our ancestors remained in Ohio until the road to Illinois was completed and then followed the newly completed road as far as they could. Daisy Workman Lichtenwalter’s letter states that their intent was to head toward Missouri where the road was originally suppose to continue on to. When they reached the end of the road in Illinois they most likely learned that there would be no continuation of the road on toward Missouri. While their reasoning for not continuing on was initially attributed to the horse running off and that they decided they liked what they saw in Illinois, the fact that there would be no future road on to Missouri probably affected their decision to stay in Illinois.

Additional Resources for National Road:



Family history because our lives are stories waiting to be told!

I am taking a break from the stories of Vikings and other medieval histories to do some work on my own family history. As Lagertha once mentioned in the Vikings series, our lives are stories waiting to be told.

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

In Bernard Cornwell’s stories of the Saxons, he mentioned in his author’s notes that the history interested him because of his family ancestors and their connection to Bebbanburg Castle.

bebbanberg castle

Bernard cornwell historical notes for Last kingdom

History becomes more interesting and important to us when we can make a connection to it in some way that relates to our current situation or our personal family stories.  I think that there is so much more interest in these historical tales because many of us are searching in some ways for the parts of our past that we have come disconnected from. We may be looking toward the more global future but we still want some way to hold on to our past, our heritage, our culture.  As we move further and further away from the extended family units and dynamics that once held us together, supported us, encouraged us and took care of each other, we still want that connection in our lives. As we move on to a much larger world view, we become disconnected with that smaller community, family history… we become disconnected from those people whose stories created the story that we each live out right now.  It is all of those stories of people in our past that make up who we are, what we do and why we do it.  Every step they took, every choice they made, every secret they shared or held close to their heart led to us in the here and now. Every one of those ancestors has a story that is important to who you have become. No, they may not all  be grand, epic adventures. Perhaps their stories were what you assume to be dull, boring and mundane of little or no consequence in how you have come to be who you are. But, look at it in this perspective… had any one of them made a different choice in what you consider their unimportant life, you may not be here living your current life!  It’s like the concept of time travel, or the idea of being able to go back in your history and change something… if any one thing changed at a particular time in your family history, you would be a different person than you are right now. Ohhh, I know, some of you are probably thinking that might be a good thing but in reality, take a close look at all of your life, all of your memories and the lessons you have learned. Which of those things would you give up, would you willingly give them all up to be a completely different person than you are now?  Life is about learning, about understanding, accepting and about using all of those experiences toward a better future either for yourself or for your next generations. 

I think part of the interest, fascination and fandom for such stories as the Vikings saga, The Last Kingdom, and yes- Outlander as well, is the fact that they are not just about one specific event or person. They are epic sagas that tell a family story, a family journey. These stories give us a vision, a connection to that past that we all may be a part of. They inspire us to look deeper into our own family histories, stories and roots. They tell us stories that may be forgotten about our own pasts. For that reason, they are important! Throughout history, those small societies and communities relied on each other to tell the stories of their lives, to share their experiences, their lessons and their wisdom and pass it down to the next generation. In those early groups without a detailed written language, some of the most important and revered members of the community were the story tellers, the Skalds, the Bards, and the elders.  These people held the memories and the lessons of life and survival, of fame and of glory, of honor and tradition. They told the history, the stories that held a group together, gave a group unity and reason to go on fighting for another day.

I think that in some ways, we all still crave that sense or feeling of community of family. We search for that part that we feel is missing. Much like searching for that one true love soul mate, we search for some feeling of identity, some feeling of reason for being or purpose in life. As the world begins to blend together in some common unity, I think we each in some way still search for and want that unique individual identity within us. That unique individual identity can be found in our family history, because while our family history connects us to that larger common world, it also is one that keeps us connected to the smaller familial group that is our own.


My Own Journey


Ward and Florence Workman wedding photo

For me, my family history is just as important as the more general and common history that everyone has some knowledge of.  I grew up surrounded by family history and mystery. I know, you are thinking, “Well didn’t we all grow up surrounded by family history?”  Let me explain it a bit more and you might understand better. My Mother was the oldest child in her family yet did not marry or have children until late in life.  My Father was one of the youngest children in his family and his older sisters had started their families long before he decided to settle down and have children. As a result of this pairing, most of my childhood was spent as the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family that consisted by then of much older relatives.  I spent a lot of my early childhood years trying to behave and be quiet among all of them… I was that quiet little one sitting amongst their adult conversations pretending not to listen. I found that if I remained quiet enough, they would forget I was there and go on with all of their stories, gossips and rumors about  relatives. In addition to this, I also found myself attending an awful lot of funerals for many of those relatives! Most of the time, I was the only child there and was viewed with some awe and at times great curiosity… as though they had long forgotten that small children existed! They would oooh and ahhh over me for a bit and then go back to their stories of unknown relatives.  At the time, I was curious but not all that overly interested in all those stories.  They remained in the back of my mind  though, those little snippets and bits… and years later when I began researching my family history, they would return.

A box of treasure-Rescued memories and untold stories

ernst pfieffer henrietta borchart pfeiffer family photo william pfeiffer jr.

One of my other entertainments during those childhood years was a big box of old family photos. I would spend countless hours looking at those pictures wanting to know more about these strangers that had come to reside with us. The box was a collection of various photos and lives mixed together from both sides of my family, jumbled together in a last resting place. My parents inherited the photos when the grandparents passed away… really, I should clarify here that my parents actually rescued many of these photos and souls because of their sense or feeling of respect, their profound feelings for family and their interest in history. When my Dad’s Mother died, his Father was about to toss it all in the trash. My Father stepped in, said no and hauled as much as he could save home to keep some memories of the past alive for us.  Unfortunately, my Dad had no idea who some of those people in the photos were! It would take many years before those people shared their names and their lives with us. On my Mother’s side, the photos were rescued when her Mother passed away and many of them suffered the same fate as my Dad’s relatives- of being unknown strangers tossed together in a box waiting for someone to search for their identities. While  my parents couldn’t identify the people in the photos, they still held my interest. I would ponder over them, wonder and then imagine who they were, what their stories were.  That box of old photos became my greatest treasure, those people became my friends and my inspiration for the future.  That box held the past and the future for me. Even after I grew up and left home, each time I returned, I would spend time with that box, those people and always wonder about them.  As an adult, I would spend time going through the pictures once again with my parents, trying to trigger their memories of who those people were. I tried to write the names down over the years but often it seemed that what was clear as day to my parents one time would change at another viewing. When other relatives came to visit, I would haul out the box and ask them for their memories.

Slowly over many years, we were able to put names to many of my Mother’s relatives but my Father’s relative remained much a mystery to me and some still are a mystery even after all of these years.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested or didn’t care, he just didn’t know them. My Mother was the oldest one in her family and for as long as she was alive, she was much like a family record keeper… and secret keeper as well. They were a close knit little group of siblings and families and she tried to keep track of all of them. My Father’s family on the other hand, was more distant both in miles and feelings. His parents had died long before, his sisters were living distant far away lives and although he would visit his remaining relatives in Minnesota, it was not such a close connection as my Mother’s family had. I think my Mom knew as much or more about his family than he did! He seemed more connected to my Mom’s family for the most part than his own. 

When my Mom was getting sick, she decided that she needed to share as much of the family history from both sides . We began the process of sorting through that box one last time together as she tried to recall as much of the past as she could remember. Our last year together was spent looking at those pictures, those faces attempting to put names and stories to them. Along with those picture memories came other shared memories and secrets from her as well. She told me her life, the one before she was Mom or Auntie. She made me drive her down long forgotten country roads to old homesteads, farms and schools… there were times when I would get frustrated, worry that she was confused about places and I admit there were often times I prayed that my car would not get stuck on some of the treacherous overgrown logging roads she insisted I follow! But, I went along with it because I would see after a while what she was seeing so vividly in her mind… the past, the way it was when she was growing up. She took me to visit relatives I never knew I had, but they all knew her, remembered her and their reunions still bring tears to my eyes when I remember it. I sat there quiet much as I had in my childhood and listened to their stories, their memories all come back as though it had just been yesterday. And, as I sat there listening, the stories I’d heard bits and pieces of as a child all came back again, and began to make sense. Sometimes on those visits we would bring some of those pictures… and someone would casually say “Ohh I remember them!” 

For more of my Mother’s family history and secrets, you can read this previous post about why love is not enough.

The treasure box of photos took on even more meaning and value as the people came to life. Their seemingly mundane boring lives became a tapestry woven with complex and often painful stories of trying to survive, of building a life despite great difficulties that the images in the pictures seldom share with us. I was fortunate enough to have that last year with my Mom, and will be forever grateful that she chose so wisely to share all of those long held secrets with me. I am honored too that she chose to trust me with the keeping of that box of memories, that she chose to pass on to me the role of record keeper, story teller, memory sharer… I am at a point now in my life where I am realizing that I have been remiss in some of my duty, my purpose and I need to take it much more seriously.  I have spent a number of years researching our family history off and on going in spurts…. it is a never ending process, this search and this story gathering. There are times when it becomes overwhelming and so frustrating that one needs to step away from the past and breathe fresh air. Then there are times when it feels like someone from that past is calling softly- or loudly in some case, to be heard. It is like someone has sat patiently waiting in line for their story to be told, then finally jumps up waving their arms and saying, “I’m so tired of waiting, we all are tired of waiting… We want our stories told, we do not want to be forgotten!”

Calls from the past

Every so often, I get that call, that message and am reminded that I need to do something.  It’s one of those feelings that I can only explain in terms of having an ongoing niggling thought that you are forgetting something important. You could label it as intuition, premonition- it’s an inner thought that I should be doing something more, that I am side tracking myself from some purpose… unless you have also experienced the same sort of feeling, it’s difficult to describe or put into words.

I have spent the past year here sharing stories, sharing history with you, hopefully inspiring you in your own exploration of history, either in general terms or in more specific terms such as your own family history.  Recently, in the past few months, I’ve shared some of the earliest Saxon and British  history and legends with you that include ancient tales of King Arthur and the ancient Britons. As I delved into that early history, for some reason I became more and more fascinated with the area of Wales. Truthfully, I have never really had any great interest in that area before. It’s not a an area that I’ve ever really had some intense calling or feeling of connection to… until now.  Alright, I think to self, we have just read far too much about the ancient origins of this country and it’s peaked our overall interest. I let it go at that for a bit and try to get back to our normal history here but then I find myself wondering about my family history, which I have put off working on for quite a long time. I conveniently blame the most recent episodes of  TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are… one of my other favorite shows because of course, it deals with family and history! Anyway, the most recent episode with JK Rowling grabbed my attention and got me thinking of my own unknown history in Germany. I debated with self over trudging back over to and forking over cash to chase leaves which continue to pile up and ultimately lead me nowhere. I’ve been that route before and still hold a great deal of angst/frustration about much of but I do on occasion give in and hand over money in hopes of having some of my questions resolved.  Anyway, that is a completely different topic for some other time. Suffice to say, I gave into internal nagging from unknown voice or branch of my family badgering me to continue the quest. I returned to the quest assuming that I would go with specific intent of searching that elusive and mysterious German branch of my Mother’s family that simply refuses to share any more history with us. It turned out that they are still not ready to talk and if that was my sole purpose or intent, then once again, my money was wasted.  Not being one to feel as though I’ve totally wasted my money, I decided that since I’ve already paid my monthly subscription, I should at least make some attempt at visiting other branches of the family even though most of them are fairly well documented already.

I went back to some of those previously searched branches thinking just to update them with what ever few leaves might still be floating around them. For some reason, I was drawn to one ancestor whom I had never paid too close attention to before. I do apologize for that now, Mary… This particular ancestor has been sitting right there in that branch of our tree from the earliest beginnings of my research. She and her family have been there since my aunt gave me a hand written copy of our Workman family tree before I was really interested in any of it. I was always so focused on other branches that I just took her for granted, copied what vital information there was and never bothered to look beyond the surface.  I guess Mary Polly Owen was tired of waiting so patiently and for whatever reason, decided it was her turn to be heard!

Mary Polly Owen wants to be heard

Now that I look back on this, I have to wonder whether Mary Polly Owen has been calling for a while? Let me tell you a little about Mary Polly Owen and about some basics of my Workman family history  and then you might understand why I wonder this.  When I was growing up, my Dad would occasionally share what little bits he knew about the Workman family history or genealogy… and it was just that- minor little bits passed down over the years in fragments. He cared about family and about history, but realistically not so much about the two of them together.  He would share stories about his youth and some scattered random memories of his parents but other than that, he wasn’t a family history type of guy! One time when we looked at all of those old photos, there was a comment shared about some people in his family being Quakers but he wasn’t sure who or even when as in how far back.  The conversation quickly changed as we moved on to another photo and we all promptly forgot about the Quakers.  Years later when I was researching his family, I did remember that comment but didn’t give much credence or thought to it because I was finding no Quakers in the family. Nor was I finding the Irish or Scottish that he  insisted were part of his family.  He always kept insisting that his family was Irish, Scottish and English. Well, after many years of searching, I never found Irish or Scottish. What I originally found was English, then some more English and then finally some Dutch… the Dutch came because at one point in their early history the family went to Holland, changed their name from Workman to Wertman or Wiertman then moved on to America with the Dutch colonists.  During my initial research, I found a couple of family stories written down and a few distant relatives who recalled similar versions of those stories, that shed some light on this transition. One of the stories was that they claimed to be Dutch for a long time to avoid some religious persecution or some other type of retribution in England. A comment some recalled hearing often was to remember they were really English! At some point, once they were established in the states family members changed the name back to Workman and happily went on from there. Nowhere in any of this history was Mary Polly Owen’s background ever mentioned. Owens is a fairly common name and I always assumed she was English along with the rest of the various ancestors.

Mary Polly Owen has apparently decided that she has remained quiet about her own heritage long enough.  I browsed through all of those ancestors and began that ever tedious process of clearing the few remaining leaves for my direct ancestor,  Isaac Workman and his wife, Mary Jane (Polly) Owen. Just to be clear, in my personal records for her, she was always written as Mary Polly Owen, and in my own defense- most of  my previous searches had not turned up all that much additional information on her other than some basics such as vital statistics and general listings of family members. This time however, I discovered there was a lot  more detailed information on Mary and her lineage. There were a lot of those little leaves, and there are still a lot of them left to go!  So, what did Mary Polly want me to know, what was so important that she chose now to step up and insist that her story, her past be shared?

It seems that perhaps Mary Polly Owen just wanted to let me know that there is more to my interest in Wales than just having read too much history lately? Why is that, you might ask? Well, because for  one thing, Mary Polly Owen was half  Welsh as well as most likely being the Quaker that the family descendants would eventually recall. Mary Polly Owen was the daughter of one Nathan Clinton Owen whose ancestry and lineage is stretching far back into Welsh history and some very well documented firm Quaker roots. When I look at her family and their history, I can not see her easily giving up that history, lineage or belief system when she married into my ancestor Isaac’s English Protestant family. 

On the surface, Mary Polly’s (She will always be Mary Polly to me) life would seem to just be one of those mundane ordinary lives with no real details to flesh it out or make more of a story worth reading or sharing.  All we really have about her are the basic vital statistics of one family living in the early 1800s. Her story is probably similar to any number of other women during that time. There no unique or epic details to her life, no all of those details passed into obscurity along with her. She is long gone, long forgotten… she is not even one of those faces in the treasure box of photos left to me. The only thing that remains of her life are lists of names, dates and places- and some of those are probably not accurate. Take for instance the tombstone bearing her name. Obviously, at some point in time, someone has taken great care to provide this newer grave stone for Mary and Isaac but I have to wonder if her death year is actually accurate?  I do know that she was still alive in 1870. The federal census lists her as living in Sefton Illinois in 1870 and being 70 years old at that time. If she lived to be 100 back then, what a remarkable achievement for her considering how difficult times were and the fact that she was a widow for such a long time. After Isaac’s death in 1845, there is no account of her ever re-marrying so I would assume that she continued on her own, with help from her many children.

Mary Polly Owen

This is the original gravestone marker for Isaac Workman. I do not know what happened to this one or why it was replaced with the much newer one that includes Mary Polly on it but I am appreciative to which ever descendant provided the new one!

Isaac Workman gravestone

The basics of Mary’s life are that she was born on May 28th 1800 to Nathan Clinton Owen and wife Leah Margaret Hartzell in Ohio, probably somewhere in Fairfield County.  She was the second child in a family of 10 or 11 children. Her Father, Nathan died in 1811 when she would have been just 11 years old. At the time of his death, it would seem that he left his wife Leah with 10 young children to care for. Nathan’s cause of death is unknown, but he did leave a last will and testament.  It was that will that touched me, gave me some insight and thought as to the family that young Mary Polly was raised in. He spoke of  his great love and concern for his wife and children, and their future. There was one other mention in his will that provided some added clue as to this family’s Quaker beliefs. In his will, he made provision for land to be set aside for a school house, a public cemetery and public meeting house for all to use whether they be Friends, Manists, Baptist, Lutherans or Presbyterians.

In the name of God, Amen. I Nathan Owen of the county of Fairfield and state of Ohio, yeoman being very sick and weak in

body, but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given to God; calling into mind the mortality of my body and knowing that

it is appointed for all men once to die; do make and ordain this my last will and testament – that is to say principally,

and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hand of almighty God that gave it, and my body I commend to the

earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discretion of my executors, nothing doubting but at the general

resurrection, I shall receive the same – again by the mighty power of God, and as touching such worldly estate wherewith

it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form:

First, that all my last debts be paid, my dearly beloved Leah to have the privilege profits and income of all my real and

personal estate for the term of ten years after my decease; together with the privilege of buying and selling any personal

property for the schooling and maintenance of the children and at the expiration of ten years after my decease it is my

will that all my real and personal estate shall be sold, except what shall be excepted hereafter. I give and bequeath unto

my beloved wife Leah such a part of my real estate as contained within the following boundaries at the expiration of ten

years after my decease, viz; Beginning at William Young’s corner on Clear Creek and running South to Robert Young’s

corner, thence east with said Robert Young’s land till the N. E. corner of the same, thence North to Clear Creek, thence

up said creek to the place of beginning, be the same, more or less, with all the profits arrising from the same during her

natural life; I likewise give and bequeath to my beloved wife Leah at the expiration of ten years after my decease, the

following property viz, one horse and saddle not under the value of sixty five dollars, two cows, two beds and beding

together with the kitchen furniture, all the remainder of my real and personal estate to be praised and sold, giving any

of the heirs jointly or singly the privilege of holding the same at the appraisment by paying the other heirs their proper

shares; and after the decease of my beloved wife Leah, all the real and personal estate devised to her, by this my last

will and testament, the same to be praised and sold for the benefit of the heirs, giving them the privilege of holding the

same at the appraisement, as above, reserving out of my whole tract of land, one acre on the north east corner of the same

for the benefit of a school, where a school house may be built and a grave yard for the benefit of the public – in

general, such religious denominations as is hereafter mentioned to have the privilege of building a house for public

worship on said reserve (vis) Old sort of Quakers, otherwise called Friends. Old sort of Manists, Babtists, Lutherans and

Presbyterians, and no person or persons whatsoever to dwell or reside thereon. The said reserve to be appropriated to no

other use than the purposes herein mentioned. I give and bequeath to my oldest son David by my first wife, eight dollars

it being my will that my son James, my son William, my daughter Mary, my son Joseph, my son Charles, my son Nathan, my son

Jesse, my son Reuben and the one unborn to have an equal share without distinction of all the monies interest profits and

income. It is likewise my will that no sale shall be made of any part of my real estate before the expiration of ten years

after my decease any of the heirs that should be of age before that time shall wait till such sale shall take place and

money raised, and then to receive interest for the same from the time they become of age till the time they receive

payment and the others to receive their shares as the respectively become of age. I likewise constitute make and ordain

Martin Sanders Esq. Executor and my beloved wife Leah executrix of this my last will and testament likewise leaving the

reserve above mentioned in their care and charge giving them power to transfer their charge of it to my heirs and then

their heirs and so on successively hoping that all things herein mentioned and contained be faithfully and truly performed

ratifying and confirming this (with they interlining and erasement as above) and no other to be my last will and

testament. In Witness whereof I have herewith set my hand and seal this nineteenth day of January in the year of our Lord

One Thousand eight hundred and eleven. Signed, sealed, published and declared in the presence of us and we in his presence

have hereunto set our hand this day and date herein written. Nathan Owen

Nathan’s wife Leah married again in December of 1812 and had one more child. It is unknown whether he was a Quaker, but my initial thought is that he probably was or that he would have been mindful and accepting of what ever faith Leah was.


The family remained in Fairfield county where Mary Polly married Isaac Workman in 1818 when she was 18 years old. Mary and Isaac resided in Knox county Ohio until 1838 when they joined other members of Isaac’s family in what was originally a plan to settle in Texas. They did not get any further than Illinois! The recorded story is that sixteen families started out in a wagon train on their way to settle in Texas. They camped over night at Howard’s Point near St. Elmo. While there a horse belonging to Isaac Workman broke it’s tether and escaped. Horses were very valuable and the whole next day was spent searching for the lost horse. They found it just about where the old liberty Cemetary was later located. In looking for the horse, they had explored that part of the county and liked what they saw. How many in the wagon train besides the Workman families remained in the county is not known. Mary and Isaac settled in Fayette county, Illinois with their 10 children. In August of 1845, Isaac passed away. He and Mary Polly were married for 27 years and as I’ve mentioned previously, there is no record of her ever marrying again.  I know this seems like very little to base any thoughts about her life on or for that matter, much reason to be so interested in this one woman’s seemingly unremarkable life. Perhaps that is part of the reason I am so interested in her?  For many of  her descendants like my family, she  became just another name on a piece of paper.  She disappeared into the fabric, the tapestry of our history and left little trace of herself, her heritage, her history and her culture other than that vague recollection on someone in our past possibly being a Quaker. Her Welsh heritage completely disappeared in our history!

As I read more about Mary’s Father Nathan and his family, I began to see more of  Mary Polly Owen as well.  Mary Polly Owen was born into a strong Welsh Quaker family and heritage that is well worth remembering. It was not quite so apparent  when reading Nathan’s short history but became much clearer when going back a generation to Nathan’s Father, David Owen. I found this short biography mentioning David Owen and the family’s heritage which they took great pride in.

SAMUEL BACHMAN AND HIS WIFE RACHEL OWEN By Cornelia Ellen Bachman Phlegar -1970 Page 9 & 10

“…The Owen family were of Welsh origin. They were among the first immigrants to the state and some of them became prominent in Colonial days. Griffith was a member

of the Colonial Council from 1685 to 1707. John was Sheriff of Chester County in 1730. Owen was Sheriff of Philadelphia County in 1728 and Coroner in 1730. After this

he went to Saucon. His wife was Margaret. They had at least three childen: Thomas, David and Margaret. David, with his wife, Sarah, had eleven children, among them

Rachel, the wife of Samuel Bachman.

David Owen operated a sawmill and hat factory on the site of the Mast’s Mill at Standard about the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1748, he applied for and was

granted a license to open a tavern. He opened this tavern in 1748 on the farm later owned by Frank B. Heller. On February 10, 1749, warrants were issued to David Owen,

in pursuance of which there was patented to him on December 13, 1769, one tract (No. 5) of 64 1/2 acres designated as “Perplexity” and another (No. 19) of 49 acres.

David Owen served as a private of the 5th class in the 5th Company, 1st Battalion, Northampton County Militia in June 1777. A question has been raised as to whether

Samuel Bachman of Saucon was the Samuel Bachman who married Rachel Owen, also of Saucon, and settled in Philadelphia or whether one Christopher Samuel Bachman who

arrived at Philadelphia in 1750 aboard the ship Edinburgh from Rotterdam might not be this man. … It is my opinion, based on the records, that the Samuel Bachman of

Saucon courted and won his neighbor, Rachel Owen, and travelled to Philadelphia where they were married and lived until they made their trip to the southern territory

and that Christopher Samuel Bachmann is in no way connected with this couple.

Page 22 The following record was taken from photostatic copy of a page from an old family Bible, said copy having been loaned to Nell Phlegar by Miss Reveley Owen, of

Bristol, Virginia, she being a direct descendant of David Owen.

“David Owen was born in the year of our Lord 1713, the 13 Day of March — And dyed the 15 Day of June in the year of Our Lord 1790 being about Seventy Seven years of

age — Sarah Owen his wife was born in the year of Our Lord 1724 and Died the 13 Day of Aprill 1792 being about 68 years of Age — They were blessed with eleven

children six sons and five daughters the names as follows: Thomas Jessee David Jonathan Nathan Joseph Rachel Mary Sarah Abigail Lydia –“


Nathan Owen eventually settled in Ohio while much of his family remained in Pennsylvania or moved on to Tennessee but I believe that his pride in his heritage and his religious beliefs probably remained strong. I have not done much added research into the area he settled in Ohio, but my personal thought is that he most likely settled with some family members or church members. I think he and his wife would have made attempts to pass that heritage and faith on to their children. So growing up, Mary Polly would probably have been well versed and aware of her own heritage, and she would have also been well grounded in her own faith even if she chose to eventually marry one who was not a Quaker. My thought is that when she married into Isaac’s large family, she and her heritage got swallowed up and began to disappear over the years. This would have been easy to occur, especially when she made the move with Isaac and his family from her home in Ohio to Illinois. If she moved with his family and left most of hers and any Quaker Friends in Ohio, she would have blended more into the larger group of predominantly English descendants. Her own culture and history would have been easily overshadowed and forgotten as time went by.


workman family 1885

From left to right – John Scott, Matilda Workman Scott, William Workman and Harriet Earnst Workman (Matilda’s Parents), Barbara and Arthur Clark (Sister), Harriet Workman Smith, Aunt Michele Shear holding Hattie in her arms and little Walter Smith standing holding on to post, Charlie Workman with wife Etta Workman, and the Minister and wife (who married Charlie and Etta).

Charles Workman

Charles Workman

Another interesting thought about Mary Polly and what trace she may have left us as to her history is a comment made by my Great Grandfather, Charles Workman. He made comments about  family history in Pennsylvania and recalled some reference to Pennsylvania Dutch.  Not all of his memory or recollections were accurate as I later discovered, but I take into consideration that by the time he shared his memories he was quite elderly and he may easily have mixed up some of the information. The main point is that his hazy and vague recollections do have some merit and some possible grains of truth.  He remembered family being in Pennsylvania, as well as the stories about his Father’s side having Dutch ancestry. What interests me now is the possibility that perhaps he was recalling something of Mary Polly’s past as well with his thoughts of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Dutch?

Mary Polly’s Father, Nathan Owen was a descendant of  a well traced, documented and regarded Welsh Quaker family that began life in America when early ancestor Griffith Owen left Wales to settle in Pennsylvania.

Griffith Owen was born in Marionethshire, Wales and died January 1717/1718 in Philadelphia. PA.  His will was probated Spetember 29, 1717.  He married Sarah Barns, daughter of William Barns.  She died October 22, 1702.  He married again to sarah Songhurst in 1704.  she died June 4, 1733.  All children are from his 1st. wife.

             Dr. Griffith Owen, son of Robert Owen and Jane Vaughn Owen was a Leader among the Quakers.  He had a liberal education and practiced Medicine in England, becoming a Surgeon of high repute.  When William Penn received his charter, Dr. Owen Persuaded him to set aside 40,000 acres in Chester Co., to be known as the Welsh tract.  This was to be reserved for those of the Welsh race, the Welsh Language, manners and laws should prevail there.  He reached Philadelphia in September 1684 and soon acquired a large practice in his profession.  He is accredited with performing the first surgical operation in Pennsylvania.  He served for many years in public life, holding position as a member of assembly almost continuously, a member of the Governor’s Council, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, a Coroner, Justice of the Peace and a Judge of the Common Pleas.  He was a minister among the Friends.  In the performance of these Duties, he made several trips to England and Wales.  “There was no more respected or influencential Friend in all the Province.”  He settle first in Merion, but afterwards removed to Philadelphia.

If we look at Mary Polly’s Mother, Leah Hartzell, we can find the possible connections or reference to Pennsylvania Dutch. Leah’s originated in Germany, which is where the term Pennsylvania Dutch originally referred to.  Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch)   are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. This early wave of settlers, which would eventually coalesce to form the Pennsylvania Dutch, began in the late 17th century and concluded in the late 18th century. The majority of these immigrants originated in what is today southwestern Germany, i.e., Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg; other prominent groups were Alsatians, Swiss, and Huguenots (French Protestants). Historically they have spoken the dialect of German known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch. In this context, the word “Dutch” does not refer to the Dutch people or their descendants, but to Deutsch (German).

The first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1683.  Mass emigration of Palatines began out of Germany in the early 18th century from areas along the Rhine River.  The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or Reformed, but many Anabaptists as well. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch. This was in contrast to the Fancy Dutch, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream.

If you  go back and  read Nathan Owen’s will,  he makes references to the other religious affiliations that may have made up his settlement in Ohio and formed some close relationships. For him to leave land specifically designated for public use by all of these groups suggests there was a close relationship and connection between them all.  Given Leah’s family lineage, it’s highly possible or probable that Leah Hartzell was a part of this Pennsylvania Deitsch group. The Quakers would have blended somewhat smoothly with these others given the fact that they were sometimes regarded as  Plain and Simple people as well. 

Through Leafs and Time

After all of this research and discussion, what am I left as and ending for this look at Mary Polly Owen? I still don’t know her very well, I may never know her as well as I would like to. But, I do know her better than I did before I started so just for that fact alone, the trip through leafs and time at has been well worth the money spent for such a journey. My visit with Mary Polly Owen has introduced me to a part of my family history that I never knew about and for that I am much appreciative. She has left me with even more interest in her Owen heritage and legacy that goes so much further back to Wales and to England. Perhaps that was her intent.  Her spirit stepped forward from the pages and  looked over my shoulder. I could almost feel her point and whisper, “Look, there’s my name, there I am…click on that leaf!”  Maybe she just wanted that recognition as we all do that she was here in my life, my history, and that her story is just as important as some of those other more memorable and interesting ones. Perhaps she wanted to remind me that her story, her life was and is part of a much bigger and longer one. Her life may seem rather mundane, ordinary…. plain and simple, but she connects me to a much richer picture of the past.  We all need those simple rather plain threads in order to weave the stories together and create that brilliant tapestry of life that is made up of so many different paths in history.  Mary Polly has reminded me of a purpose in my life. She has inspired me to spend more time focusing on my family’s history, sharing it and passing it down to future generations to learn from.

As I work on this project, I will share the journey here with all of you because all of it is a part of history.  All of  our stories matter, whether big or small, epic or ordinary, it is all a journey through time.  Every one of us has a story worth telling and sharing hidden within our past. My last thought for today is to challenge and encourage you to explore your own history and see where it takes you. You may be surprised at where the journey leads you to, much as I was by finding a path that takes me to Welsh Quakers in Dolgelly, Merionethshire, Wales! There is far more to tell about the Owen Family history and I will share some of it in future posts!


Merionethshire Wales

This 19th century hall sits on the land that was originally owned by ancestor Robert Owen before his family emigrated in the 1600s. It is Dolserau Hall in Dolgelly Wales and is now an Inn.

Dolserau Hall in Wales

Dolserau Hall in Wales

Owen Welsh tartan

Owen Welsh tartan

Now, go off on your own journey through time and history. Hopefully you will find unexpected treasures, reunite with unknown faces from the past and be inspired by someone’s long forgotten story.